PHILADELPHIA -- As the Phillies advanced to the World Series last year, they were forced to routinely answer questions about their suspect bullpen.
If setup man Ryan Madson and rejuvenated closer Brad Lidge continue to prove as dominant as they were during Thursday night's 4-2 win over the Giants in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series, the Phillies certainly aren't going to have to show concern about the back end of their bullpen.
"We all have our jobs here," Madson said. "I got my job done, and I knew Lidge was going to come in and get his job done."
Facing potential elimination in this best-of-seven series, the Phillies saw Madson protect a one-run lead by striking out the three batters he faced in the eighth inning. Given an insurance run courtesy of Jayson Werth's ninth-inning solo homer, Lidge kept his club's World Series hopes alive with a perfect 10-pitch ninth inning that was capped by a strikeout of Travis Ishikawa.
Still trailing 3-2 in this NLCS, the Phillies return to Philadelphia with life and further reason to be confident in the bullpen's ability to preserve late-inning leads.
"We were aware of [Roy Halladay's groin injury]," Lidge said. "We knew he wasn't at 100 percent. That makes it even more impressive what he did. He went out there and battled."
The same could be said of this bullpen, which had been spread too thin courtesy of Joe Blanton's fifth-inning exit in Wednesday's Game 4 loss. Chad Durbin surrendered two runs in his one-inning effort, and Roy Oswalt's surprise ninth-inning entrance proved disastrous when the Giants used a pair of hits and a sacrifice fly to tarnish the veteran hurler's rare relief appearance.
|1.||Mariano Rivera||138 2/3||42|
|2.||Brad Lidge||42 1/3||18|
|4.||Jason Isringhausen||26 2/3||11|
|6.||Mark Wohlers||38 1/3||10|
|7.||Rollie Fingers||57 1/3||9|
|8.||Rich Gossage||31 1/3||8|
|Randy Myers||30 2/3||8|
|John Wetteland||18 2/3||7|
|Troy Percival||9 2/3||7|
The three runs charged to Durbin and Oswalt stand as the only runs surrendered by the bullpen in 16 postseason innings this year. During last year's postseason, Philadelphia's relievers worked 40 2/3 innings and allowed 19 earned runs.
"I think, as a collective unit, we are better," Lidge said.
After proving perfect in 2008, Lidge endured a nightmare last year, posting a 7.21 ERA in 67 regular-season appearances. This year, he converted 27 of 32 save opportunities and posted a 2.96 ERA in 50 appearances.
Madson also proved more consistent this season. In fact, he proved downright dominant while posting a 1.04 ERA in his final 36 regular-season appearances.
But even Madson admitted he might have been at his best Thursday night, when he needed 13 pitches to record three strikeouts against Buster Posey, Pat Burrell and Cody Ross. The 30-year-old right-handed reliever credited a cutter that gained some more life when he dropped his arm slot slightly.
"I had a really good cutter," Madson said. "I just dropped my arm angle down a little bit and it worked. I've done it before. I just got away from it."
While Jose Contreras was pitching for a third straight day, he had thrown just six pitches in Wednesday's loss. Meanwhile Madson proved to be dominant just 24 hours after throwing 32 pitches in 1 2/3 innings.
"It was big," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "We needed that."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.